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January 2007 SIP Magazine
Volume 2 / Number 1
SIP Magazine January 2007 Issue

SIP in America’s Heartland — NNU Deploys the First Ever Inter-Tel 7000

By Greg Galitzine, Special Focus



Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) is a Christian liberal arts university fully committed to an educational process that pursues both intellectual and spiritual development. Founded in 1913 as a college, and having attained university status within the last decade, NNU today serves over 1,200 undergraduate students and approximately 500 graduate students at its Nampa, Idaho campus. There are also approximately 260 employees. The University comprises eight regional campuses in the United States, and over 52 such centers globally. Within the United States, NNU has campuses in 7 States: Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.

NNU is also home to about 20–30 International students who have come to the Nampa campus from around the world.

I had the good fortune to meet with Eric Kellerer, Director of Information Services at Northwest Nazarene University to discuss some of the challenges facing this growing educational community, naturally focusing on the telecommunications needs of the school.

Northwest Nazarene happens to be the first organization to have deployed Inter-Tel’s newest solution, the Inter-Tel 7000, together with Inter-Tel’s 8660 phones.

In an interview with TMC earlier this year, Inter-Tel CEO Craig Rauchle described his company’s latest offering as a “. . .platform that will interoperate with other standards-based devices and applications. Over the next few years, this will provide businesses with enormous flexibility in their ability to integrate third-party solutions into their network.”

The Inter-Tel 7000 can scale up to 2,500 users per site and is designed as a pure, standards-based communications platform. Using SIP at its core, the system is designed to be redundant and secure and offers an easy-to-use interface for remote management and configuration.

The new platform also offers full PBX-style features based on Inter-Tel’s decades-old legacy in telecom, as well as a number of enhanced features like embedded presence management and mobility.

I asked Kellerer about NNU’s needs, and how they came to consider a new phone system for the University and why they considered Inter-Tel.

“We had a [system from a competing manufacturer] since about 1994, and I think our motivation for looking around was two-fold; for one, our voice mail was just in poor shape, and we were having problems with voice mail delivery for sometimes as much as 24 hours,” Kellerer told me.

“The biggest motivator was customer care,” says Kellerer. “We wanted to be able to care for individuals. That’s the focus of this institution: We’re very personal and very care oriented about people. We weren’t handling calls well. Calls would get routed and dropped, and we just needed to be more intentional about getting calls and routing them correctly and making sure they got to the right spots.”

NNU serves a number of different constituents including prospective students; current students; alumni; donors; and vendors within the community.

Kellerer recounted the tale of a donor who experienced some difficulty in making a sizable donation to NNU. “One of the things that escalated our concern was a donor who decided to surprise us one day and showed up at the airport to come to campus. He had with him a $200,000 check, and he got to the airport and called our development office and he got sent straight to voicemail, and that voicemail never got delivered for a whole day. So you can see we had some motivation to fix that problem right away.”

The good news is the donor eventually made his way to campus. The better news is that while he was a bit upset, he still delivered the check.

Expanding on his needs, Kellerer continued, “From my department’s perspective, we have a support desk that needs to get calls, and we need to respond, and we wanted to handle those calls better in more of a call center type of approach, and our existing system didn’t handle that well. As the administrator, I also needed something that was easier to maintain, and take care of.”

Scott Langdon and Rod Richardson, president and vice president of DataTel Communications, were present as well when I visited Nampa. DataTel is the Meridian, IDbased dealer who installed the system for NNU. They have been an exclusive Inter-Tel dealer for the past six years or so, having “. . .picked up Inter-Tel for their expertise and strength on the product development side.” Said Langdon, “The Inter-Tel 7000 is a great example of forward thinking, and we’re really pleased to see Inter-Tel come out with a product that is going to give us an edge on our competition when we go out to sell products.”

He continued, “Once we saw the 7000, we realized there was a huge fit for NNU and for the student body.”

In the past DataTel would spend a lot of time assigning extensions and manually programming voice mailboxes, etc., that were static, and would remain associated with the dorm rooms at NNU. “For management, “Langdon explained, “we can cut down on the time it takes to assign, program and do all the manual things that we had to do with the old system.”

The change has been dramatic. According to Langdon, “Now if I’m a first year student, and my extension is for example 1000, that extension stays with me for the whole transition until I graduate, no matter where I move on the campus.”

Taking advantage of the 7000’s capabilities, “I can make that extension ring wherever I want it to ring, which is a big benefit for the students and one that gives them flexibility.”

I asked Kellerer about the transition. “I’ll be honest, when we first said this was going to be a beta, I had several people call me crazy. ‘A telephone system is way too important to be testing on-the-fly,’ they said. And frankly, I was concerned with being down for a period of time. But Inter-Tel came in with their team, all the homework had been done in advance, DataTel knew our network, made sure that was all right, and they came in and got the system up and running in a very short period of time.

“Our offices were down for maybe ten minutes in the transition. The students, who all have analog lines, were down for maybe a couple of hours, because actual physical wires had to be punched down. I’ve been very impressed with how smoothly it’s gone.”

Among the more useful capabilities is the ability for the phone system to serve different constituents differently, by integrating the various business processes of varying departments into the communications system. “Admissions is its own business,” Langdon said. “They want their phones to function one way, and student enrollment wants it to function another way, and on down the chain, and the 7000 is able to accommodate everyone flexibly.”

Kellerer added, “When we looked at some other products, the business processes were built into the product, and you needed to mold your business to meet the phone. And that doesn’t work on a campus. We have so many different business processes, and we need to be flexible regarding business process, and Inter-Tel was able to show me how that worked on their system.”

In addition, the ability to integrate future business processes was critical to Kellerer’s decision making process when choosing the 7000. “We have the architecture and the plan down; we just need to write the interfaces to new business applications, and we’ll be ready to go.”

One of the obvious benefits of the new system is the control that people get in terms of call routing. Kellerer’s staff can reach him any time, anywhere, because he sets his call routing profile to allow them to reach him when they need to. While Kellerer manages all the rules of how his calls are handled, he says the toughest thing is to manage how other employees use the system.

“We have some older staff, who may simply want to pick up the phone, whereas I want them to pick up the phone when they’re there, but when they’re not there, I want them to put their status on something else.”

Langdon added, “I think that was a huge enhancement for NNU. The Personal Communicator on the 7000 has made it very easy for people to manipulate how they want their calls handled.”

The Personal Communicator is the presence engine on the 7000.

Eric also touted the system’s ability to help serve the International students as well as the professors who travel internationally. In fact every student has a cross-cultural element of their education at NNU, and as such they will all spend a significant amount of time traveling away from the University.

One such faculty member is Dr. Jennifer Chase, Professor of Biology, who spent time last semester teaching in the UK.

Dr. Chase was working in a lab in the UK, and with the good quality Internet connection there, and the XLite softphone (from Counterpath) deployed on her laptop, it was completely seamless for people to call her. “It was exceedingly helpful when I had research students here (in Nampa) to be easily in contact, just an extension call away.”

“Certainly professors work at home frequently, so I can sit in my office at home correcting papers or what have you, but still be just as available as if I was in my office at the University,” she continued. “It’s also been a good advantage to call prospective students from home, and have the caller ID show up as NNU when I dial them.”

And when one considers that the University faculty often is charged with calling these potential students all over the country to aid in recruitment, from their home phones, you could see why they would be happy with any solution that enables them to avoid the high tolls associated with calling.

And managing the phone systems and user preferences have become a breeze with the 7000 as well. “It’s very easy, when we can adjust all the settings on the telephone from a computer. It’s all very intuitive.”

In further discussing the ability to enable remote users, Kellerer mentioned the ability to load a SIP compatible softphone on the student or faculty member’s laptop, and in fact he declared that another deciding factor on selecting the Inter-Tel 700 was the product’s SIP core. “One of the things that was important to me was the adherence to standards. I didn’t want another proprietary system,” he said.

It’s important to note that the softphones are third-party products and they are easily deployed remotely and integrate with the 7000’s because of the built-in SIP capabilities.

There are many advantages to moving to a standardsbased system. Said Kellerer, “The SIP part of it is important to enable communication between people and devices. This year is not all I’m concerned about. I need to know that next year or next week, I can choose to get whatever I need to meet my requirements at that time.”

According to Kellerer, one of the other exciting things was the response from the campus. We walked around the Nampa campus and dropped in on a number of people, who universally were thrilled to have this new phone system.

Take Marsha Rogers, who operates the switchboard in the Administration building. She is very satisfied with the new system, and among her favorite benefits is the ease with which she is able to train student helpers to work with the system. She uses the Inter-Tel attendant console, together with the on-screen software component of that solution to route calls throughout the University. “I’ve been here 14 years, and over that time, we’ve had three phone systems. This is by far the most useful one yet,” she said.

Katie Salisbury wears several hats. In addition to her role in the office of the registrar, she works in several other offices as well. She particularly likes the ability to manage her messages, specifically the ability to pull messages out of her voicemail out of order. She also takes advantage of the presence management capabilities of the Inter-Tel 7000 to handle her call routing.

I spoke to an administrative assistant in the business office, who loved the conference call features as well as the use of caller ID to help properly deal with calls. In the end, Kellerer is especially grateful for the system’s ability to expand and grow with the University as needs evolve over time. His upcoming projects are integrating the phone system to enable unified messaging and see that synchronized with the University’s Novell software, to have all the contacts in Groupwise be connected.

He’s happy with the IM capabilities through Personal Communicator, based on the experience in his department, but he’d like to see that expand to include other groups on campus.

Kellerer believes that video too will have an impact on the system as adoption increases in the months and years to come. He’s also looking for ways to integrate the phone system’s Web interface into the campus’ portal. “I don’t want everyone to have to log in to 10 different interfaces. It would be great to have everything they need right there in on their portal.”

Perhaps most of all he’s looking forward to enabling lots of different services to work on the different devices that his constituents choose. “We have over 40 services that we’re currently offering, and while not everyone subscribes to all of these services, we want all of these services to come to the device of their choice and not have to be logged in 10 different times.”




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